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Dukakis says industry will soon recover

By Irene C. Kuo

Governor Michael S. Dukakis' upbeat projection for the 1990s contrasted with his call for the state to "get its fiscal house in order" at an economic summit held in the MIT Student Center last Friday.

Dukakis spoke of restoring not only the bond between himself and the people of Massachusetts, but also that among the people themselves.

"The '90s are ours to win -- if we understand the challenges we face and if we tackle them together," he said.

Approximately 400 bankers, small businessmen, and representatives from hi-tech and biotech industries discussed the strategies and goals that Dukakis categorized into the global marketplace, the "knowledge base," the "mega-projects," "new tech" industries, and targets for opportunity.

As New England is near the center of the "Atlantic Rim" -- Europe and Canada -- the Massachusetts economic community will have to be ready when the European Economic Community emerges in 1992, Dukakis said. While enthusiastic about the state's growing roles in both the Pacific and Atlantic Rims, he stressed the need for more companies to export.

"A handful of major Route 128 companies do the lion's share," he claimed. "Seventy percent of our small and medium-sized manufacturing companies do no exporting at all." Massachusetts must also try to prevent its high cost of energy from affecting the cost of its goods, he noted.

Dukakis said that the state budget shortfall has slowed the improvement in K-12 public education Massachusetts was beginning to see after passage of a 1985 education reform act. Only with good schools can the state realize the benefits of college opportunity and a first-class employment and training system, he said.

"In the next 20 years, 85 percent of all the new jobs we create in Massachusetts will require some post-secondary education," Dukakis stressed.

The "mega-projects" include cleaning up Boston Harbor; constructing the Artery-Tunnel, including sending the Central Artery underground and building another harbor tunnel; restoring the commuter network from South Station to Plymouth, Greenbush, and Middleboro; establishing high-speed (three-hour) passenger rail service from Boston to New York to help decongest Logan Airport; and rebuilding state turnpikes.

Dukakis was explicit about the sources of funding for these projects. The Artery-Tunnel project is eligible for 90 percent federal funding, high-speed rail to New York will rely on partial federal support, and the turnpike reconstruction will require the first toll increase in ten years.

Fourth, Dukakis said that Massachusetts could encourage "new tech" industries by promoting sensible regulation in biotechnology; funding a one-year, post-secondary certificate program in biotech research; setting aside land for research and development; and fostering a partnership between the state's military technology transfer officers and the licensing operations of MIT and other research institutions.

Last, he stressed the need to expand regional economies by building industrial parks, creating affordable housing, and promoting the upkeep of highways and bridges by raising the state gasoline tax (now the fourth-lowest in the nation).

"There are vast opportunities that can be unlocked by the state," Dukakis said at the close of the morning session. "We need to create a culture of fire, a sense of urgency."